Sausages are synonymous with good times. Think about it. We grill them on hot summer days, top bratwurst with onions and mustard at music fests and indulge in frankfurters at ballgames. Delicious and fun. So why not enjoy them in the middle of winter?
In addition to great flavor, there are a couple of bonuses: Sausage cooks quickly. It’s also economical at the meat counter. These days, the choices move beyond Italian and pork sausages. Many large supermarkets sell varieties made from chicken, turkey, lamb — both raw and fully cooked. Flavorings range from red chile spice to sweet apple and onion.
I look for sausages free of additives, preservatives and excess sugar. I favor fully cooked chicken sausages for speed and their reduced calorie count. I stock fully cooked andouille and kielbasa in the freezer for inspired weekday cooking. I opt for fresh spicy Italian, savory lamb merguez and rich paprika-laden Hungarian links for company.
Cooking fresh sausages indoors requires moisture to prevent dryness. I like to simmer them in water, broth or beer to cook them through. Then, tip off the liquid to allow the sausages to brown in the pan. This browning develops flavor and crisps the casing — the same attributes we like from our summer grilling efforts.
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In the cold-weather months, I shake up sausage sandwiches by adding a blanket of cheese or a layer of seasoned beans. Served on best-quality breads, toasted briefly under the broiler, these are sandwiches that transition from weeknight meals to party fare — bring them out for parties, and you’ll win the day.
The pepper mixture from the first recipe keeps well in the refrigerator for several days. Since most days I am only cooking for two of us, I make a full recipe of the peppers and then make the sandwiches for two separate dinners. (You can also use the pepper mixture in omelets and salads, and over grilled chicken or burgers.)
A fresh lemon and garlic vinaigrette seasons canned white beans before you smear them on a toasted roll brushed with the same dressing. Golden, crisped sausage fill the buns beautifully. Or, spoon the beans on a warm plate, and top with the crisped sausages and a pile of baby arugula.
CHICKEN CHORIZO, PEPPER FUNDIDO HOAGIES
Prep: 20 minutes
Cooks: 15 minutes
Makes: 4 sandwiches
Fill the sandwiches with two sausages for hearty appetites. If desired, skip the bread and serve the sausage and peppers over rice or pasta. When broiling the buns and sandwiches, do not walk away.
2 large poblano peppers (about 12 ounces total)
1 large (12 ounces) red onion, halved
1 roasted red bell pepper (if bottled, rinsed well)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon each: dried leaf thyme, salt
1 or 2 packages (9 ounces each) fully cooked chicken chorizo sausages
4 French rolls or sausage buns
3 to 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 ounces Monterey Jack, Chihuahua or brick cheese, thinly sliced
Chopped fresh cilantro
1. Cut the poblanos in half lengthwise. Remove the core and seeds. Cut peppers crosswise in half again, then cut into 1/4 inch wide strips. Cut the onion halves into 1/4-inch wide wedges or slices. Cut the roasted red pepper into 1/4-inch wide strips about the same length as the poblano.
2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add oil, poblano strips and onion slices. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until vegetables soften and onion turns golden, about 7 minutes. Stir in red bell pepper and garlic. Cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Season with thyme and salt. Set aside. (Mixture can be refrigerated up to several days. Use at room temperature.)
3. Split the sausages lengthwise nearly in half. Nestle the sausages into the pan with the pepper mixture, and heat through over medium, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Heat broiler. Split the rolls lengthwise about three-quarters of the way through. Place the rolls cut side down on a baking sheet, and broil to toast them lightly, about 1 minute. Do not walk away, or they may burn.
5. Spread the mayonnaise on the cut side of each roll, and broil to toast that side, about 1 minute. Top each roll with 1 or 2 sausages. Pile about a quarter of the poblano mixture over the sausage(s) in each roll. Top with a quarter of the sliced cheese. Broil, 6 inches from heat source, until cheese is melted and golden, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro, fold in half and serve right away.
Nutrition information per sandwich: 616 calories, 36 g fat, 12 g saturated fat, 97 mg cholesterol, 50 g carbohydrates, 11 g sugar, 21 g protein, 1,122 mg sodium, 8 g fiber
ITALIAN SAUSAGE WITH WHITE BEANS, LEMON AND THYME
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
If desired, serve the sausage over the beans topped with the spinach or arugula.
1/4 cup each: olive oil, fresh lemon juice
Grated zest of half a lemon
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried leaf thyme
4 fresh Italian sausage links, about 6 ounces each
1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans or navy beans, drained, rinsed
4 small ciabatta rolls or crusty burger buns
1 cup loosely packed baby spinach leaves or baby arugula
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1. For the dressing, mix oil, lemon juice and zest, garlic, basil, thyme and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well.
2. Put sausages into a medium skillet along with 1/4 inch of water. Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat, turning sausages frequently, 10 minutes. Tip the water out of the pan, keeping the sausages in the pan. Cook, uncovered on low, turning often, until golden on all sides, about 5 minutes.
3. Put beans into a small microwave-safe bowl, and cover with plastic wrap or a lid. Microwave on high (100 percent power) until hot, 1 to 2 minutes. Mash coarsely with a fork. Add half of the dressing, and mash again.
4. Heat broiler. Split rolls crosswise in half. Place on a baking sheet cut sides down. Broil to crisp, about 1 minute. Turn rolls cut side up, and brush with some of the remaining dressing. Broil, watching carefully, until the rolls are nicely golden and toasted, about 1 minute.
5. Spread a quarter of the bean mixture over the bottom of each roll. Split the sausages lengthwise almost in half. Set one sausage on top of each bun bottom. Top each with quarter of the spinach. Drizzle any remaining vinaigrette over the sausages. Sprinkle with the herbs. Place the top bun on the sandwiches and serve.
Nutrition information per serving: 639 calories, 39 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 49 mg cholesterol, 44 g carbohydrates, 7 g sugar, 28 g protein, 1,148 mg sodium, 6 g fiber